Cases have been registered against the accused for damaging public property, molesting women, stealing valuables from shops etc. It all started yesterday at a rally organised by the Raza Academy here to protest the recent violence in Assam and alleged attacks on the Muslim community in Myanmar.
Thousands including members of the Sunni Jamaitul Ulma and Jamate Raza-e-Mustafa thronged the Azad Maidan to express solidarity with the organisers. Though the protest was peaceful in the beginning, things got out of hand after one of the speakers incited the crowd. Around 2.30 pm, some men pulled out provocative pictures of people being killed in Assam.
Soon a section of the protesters turned violent. They started pelting stones at motorists in Mahapalika Marg and damaged a total of 49 BEST buses. The mob also set ablaze four police vehicles, two motorcycles and the outdoor broadcasting (OB) vans of three television channels. Some reporters and cameramen of local newspapers also bore the brunt of the protest.
Lathicharge by the police had little effect. In fact, the protesters who were numerically superior brutally thrashed those wielding the lathis. Padmakar Juikar, senior inspector of MRA Marg police station sustained head injuries in the violence.
Two rifles and one pistol were snatched from the cops and some women constables were molested by the mob. Before top police officers gave orders to open fire as a last resort, teargas and rubber pellets were shot but the rampage continued.
Then many of the protesters moved towards the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. At CST, the hooligans heckled passengers and motormen. The latter refused to operate local trains unless adequate security was provided. Suburban services were consequently disrupted.
The unrest affected road traffic in south Mumbai too. The JJ flyover was shut down from 4.15 pm to 5 pm. Vehicles were diverted through PD'Mello Road. After nearly three hours of mayhem, the situation was finally brought under control. The Rapid Action Force was called in to assist the police.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan later announced that the Mumbai Crime Branch will probe the incident. "The investigations will look at who the organisers were, their role in the violence, how it broke out, and a report will be given within eight days. We will then decide the action to be taken," he said.
He added that a statewide alert has been issued to ensure there is no adverse fallout.
The Shiv Sena blamed state Home Minister RR Patil for the violence. "The home minister is entirely responsible for this incident. On other occasions like protests by teachers and farmers, when the police exercise so much restraint, why was this group given permission for the protest? Also, why should a protest on Myanmar killings and in support of Bangladeshis, or those in Assam, be staged here in Mumbai," said Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut.
BJP leader Vinod Tawde pointed out the glaring intelligence failure. "The mob that came for the protest from Dongri, Chembur and Mankhurd was seen carrying hockey sticks. Did the police not sense the mood of the crowd and anticipate this violence?" he wondered.